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Are You A Presentation Master Chef Or A Short Order Cook?

By Glenna Shaw

Have you ever attended a successful dinner party?  Do you remember what it was that made it so enjoyable?  Was it the great food, the company, the entertainment?  Chances are it was all these things.  You can use these same ingredients to create and deliver an unforgettable presentation.


Cookbook For A Presentation Feast

This article offers a variety of tips and suggestions to enhance your presentations.  Choose the ones that best suit your needs, mix well, cook until done and enjoy.


The Utensils

Presenters focus on using technology as audio-visual aids.  You may forget that technology is also a great preparation tool.  The Internet provides a wealth of information for little or no cost.  There are thousands of free presentation resources.  Computer applications check spelling and grammar.  You can easily obtain and analyze data, create graphs and format information.  Technology saves time and effort.  Research adds to the authority of your presentation topics.


The Recipes

When preparing a meal, you can find many recipes for the same entrée.  When preparing a presentation, there are various delivery techniques.  Determine the best method for your audience.  The studies listed below can help.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the impact of technology on thought and learning became increasingly apparent.  Edgar Dale, a major contributor to the study of educational communications, was fascinated with video as a teaching vehicle.  He theorized and published Dale’s Cone of Experience[1] in 1946.  This cone diagrams the effectiveness of different media to the learning experience.  The least effective (verbal symbols) are at the top of the cone.  The most effective (direct, purposeful experience) is at the bottom.


In the early 1960’s, National Education Association's Adult Education Division in Bethel, Maine developed the Learning Pyramid[2].  This pyramid charts retention rate by information delivery.  In ascending order of effectiveness, the methods are: Lecture, Reading, Audio-Visual, Demonstration, Discussion, and Practice by Doing, Teaching Others.




Continued research and studies from 1970 through today identified additional learning processes.  A few examples are learning styles, multiple intelligence, service learning, and active learning.

These studies help you avoid barriers and use methods that are more effective in the delivery of your presentations.


Hone Expertise

Almost anyone can flip a burger, but it takes practice and study to become a gourmet cook.  With approximately 17 million users worldwide[3], PowerPoint is the primary presentation tool.  But a PowerPoint presentation can be feast or famine.  It is easy to use and just as easy to make a boring presentation.  Learn to use PowerPoint well and rise above the average.  These resources can help: Presenter’s University, Slides That Win!, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, Microsoft PowerPoint News Group.

If you don’t use PowerPoint, become an expert in your preferred presentation software.  Search the Internet for your own resources.  Practice and prepare your presentation multiple times.


The Guests

Even a small amount of information about your audience is useful.  This information helps you determine preferences and needs.  The more your audience can relate personally with your message, the more memorable that message will be.

Some factors to consider are: age, gender, culture, profession, and special needs.  According to the Census Bureau, 3.6 percent of the U.S. population has a sensory disability. Furthermore, people are living longer lives. As people age, they experience a decrease in vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities. More than 49 million Americans have a disability relating to the senses; physical activity limitations; and physical, mental, or emotional challenges.  Your audience will appreciate and remember considerations you make on their behalf.  You can find out more at this site: Accessibility in Mind.


The Banquet Hall

Information about the venue is important.  Determine room size, seating arrangement and audio-visual equipment ahead of time.  Make provisions for the best seating configuration.  If you’re splitting your audience into teams, make sure the room accommodates this setting.  Find out specifics about projectors, screen size and audio systems.  Look up the equipment on the Internet and confirm the equipment works with your PC.  Have a method to control the room temperature.  You don’t want it too cold, master chefs use fresh not frozen.  Nor too hot, you want your presentation well done not your audience.


The Personal Touch

If your audience is small enough, use place cards.  Place cards allow you to address your audience members by name.  Using individual names fosters a sense of intimacy and friendship from your audience.  If appropriate, get to know your sponsors or hosts.  These people have invested their time and/or money in your skills.  These are also the people you’ll depend on for equipment, special needs, etc.


The Menu

Themes provide a sense of familiarity and continuity to a presentation.  Analogies and metaphors increase the ability to absorb and retain your message, especially in a technical presentation.  They provide a “mental bridge” to the content of the presentation.  Themes, analogies, and metaphors should be easily recognizable and relevant to your topic.  For example: using a Gold Rush theme for a presentation on Investments at a location in San Francisco.  For ideas, visit this site: A Language of Metaphors or review this Presenters University article: Prop Up Your Presentations.


The Meal

Just as a meal can be broken down into courses, a presentation is made of components.  Although it can be more complex, every presentation should contain the following:

The Appetizer

This is the introduction.  Tell them who you are, what the presentation is about and why you’re the person to tell them about it.  You can start with an icebreaker.  This web site offers some good resources for introductions and icebreakers: Educational Icebreakers.

The Main Course

This is the content of your presentation.  During this portion you can add additional courses, such as games, quizzes, or multimedia.  Or you can stay with just the entrée.

The Desert

This is your summary.  You want to reinforce the message of your presentation.  Consider adding a little sugar to help your audience retain your message.  See this Presenters University article: Cartoons for Trainers or check out Animation Factory.


It’s Our Party

Think of your audience as participants.  Using plural pronouns, such as We, Ours, and Us instead of I, Mine, You and Yours instills a sense of inclusion.  “We’re doing this together” instead of “I’m telling you about something.”  Your presentation becomes a team effort and encourages an emotional investment from your audience.


Delight The Senses

Keyboards, mice and scanners provide input to the computer.  Human beings are equipped with input devices in the form of senses.  Using as many senses as possible connects you with your audience[4].  Create an epicurean experience with your presentation.


Using color, shape, motion, and visualization stimulates sight.  Even non-sighted individuals have the ability to visualize.


Incorporating sounds, music, and spoken words appeals to hearing.


Providing handouts, a physical activity (such as raising hands) or a “hands-on” experience arouses touch.


Although you may intuitively “feed” your audiences refreshments, you may not take advantage of taste to enforce your message.  Rather than the standard refreshments, consider relevant food and beverages.  For example: providing PB&J or cheese sandwiches, juices, milk and apples for a presentation concerning teachers or educators.


Researchers are increasingly excited about recent studies concerning the sense of smell.  Yet, smell is seldom exploited as a tool.  You can use strong, pungent odors to the more subtle approach of aromatherapy.  The key is to match it to your message.  For example: during a presentation on the dangers of pollution, pass around containers of foul smelling, polluted water.

The Sixth Sense

Whether or not you believe in ESP, you can easily use one technique.  Through out the presentation, repetitively visualize your message.  It doesn’t hurt and who knows, it just might help.


How do you use all the senses?  Here’s an example using PowerPoint 2000 or higher:

Let’s say you just explained the five senses to your audience and you want to reinforce your message.  First, create a slide with five circles of different colors in random placement on the slide.  Enter the names of the five senses, one in each circle as shown.




Now, change the text color in each circle to match the color of the circle.  This will make the text seem to “disappear.”  Finally, right click on each circle, click on Action Settings and make these selections: Under the Mouse Click tab, check the box for Play Sound and select Chimes for your sound, check the Highlight Click box.  Under the Mouse Over tab, check the Highlight Click box.  Click ok.  Repeat for each circle on the slide.




Run the slide show, move the mouse over the circles and they will “flash” as the mouse moves over each one.  Ask your audience to name the five senses.  Click on the appropriate circle and hold it.  A chime will sound and the answer is visible.  Toss sealed candies, mints or gum to the audience for each correct answer.


The Maître ds

Every audience has leaders and followers.  Capitalize on leaders by allowing them to ask questions, initiate discussions and have some control of the presentation.  For example: create a menu in PowerPoint and allow them to choose the order of the topics.  Taj Simmons has an excellent on-line tutorial for creating menus in PowerPoint.

Answer questions as they arise and allow for discussion.  Holding questions until the end of the presentation decreases the “give and take” of an interactive session.  If the question asked is covered later in the presentation, say, “I’m glad you brought that up because we’ll cover it in a few minutes, next slide, next session, etc.”


The Entertainment

Games are always a great addition to any presentation, from simple quizzes to more involved team contests.  Fun and competition enhance and add to the learning experience.  PowerPak for PowerPoint is a collection of themed PowerPoint templates for presentations and games.

Consider adding an electronic co-presenter.  VoxProxy for PowerPoint allows you to add an animated character that responds to voice commands.


The Right Ingredients

Razzle-dazzle in any presentation is fun.  However, use everything in moderation.  Remember you’re the presenter; the audio-visual aids are the trimmings.  You don’t want eyes bigger than bellies.  Too much information will leave your audience overstuffed instead of pleasantly full.


Enjoy Yourself

Very few dinner parties will be successful if the host or hostess isn’t having a good time.  If your heart isn’t in your presentation, your audience will know it.  Take steps to ensure an optimistic mind-set before you step up to the podium.  Check out the Positive Attitude Institute for motivation and inspiration.


The Clean Up

Obtain feedback from participants at every presentation.  Continuous improvement is essential.  Keep solicitations simple and immediate.  For example, a short survey of five questions with multiple-choice answers turned in at the completion of the presentation.


The Party Favors

The final component of our cookbook is the handout.  Favors are a physical reminder of the event that extends beyond today.  A well-chosen promotional item generates business for tomorrow.  There are thousands of low cost promotional items available on the web.  Use your favorite search engine and enter the keyword “promotional”.


Bon Appetite!


Was this tutorial helpful?  Please feel free to share your comments &/or suggestions.

[1] Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching, 1954, Edgar Dale, Dryden Press, New York, NY pg. 43

[2] NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, 300 N. Lee Street, Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314.  1-800-777-5227

[3] Microsoft PowerPoint News Group Web Site, 2003

[4] Seeing, Hearing and Smelling the World, ã1997 Howard Hughes Medical Institute


[*] Copyright ã2003 Glenna Raye Shaw. All Rights Reserved.